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Moustaches and Marking: An Academic in Africa

Saharan dust that turns the air a shade of orange and covers everything (including the inside of your lungs) in a thick layer of grit. And the sunsets are amazing.

Nigeria street scene

[dropcap style=”font-size:100px; color:#992211;”]T[/dropcap]he harmattan in Nigeria is both beautiful and horrible.

The wind from the north brings with it both a refreshing coolness that makes mornings and evenings feel like spring, and Saharan dust that turns the air a shade of orange and covers everything (including the inside of your lungs) in a thick layer of grit.  And the sunsets are amazing.

So the last few weeks before Christmas were some of my favourite there in terms of climate, but also some of the most stressful at work.  The visibility across the city closed in as the harmattan curtain was drawn across, and everything in life focused down to a world of exams, organisation and marking.  Always marking.  Always more marking.  Academic purgatory.  But, amazingly, I got it all done, without my brain turning to cottage cheese, and finished term with everything neatly wrapped up.  I think.

[quote]Always marking.  Always more marking.  Academic purgatory[/quote]


I’m now back in the UK, on “research leave” for four months.  This is obviously great, if disorientating, and I’m simultaneously not quite sure what to do with myself until April, and petrified that it will go so fast that I won’t get anything meaningful done at all.

The first stage of this is recruiting a couple of people to come and teach English for us.  I’ve been trying to get this module set up since last March, so it’s one hell of a relief to have some movement, but less exciting to actually have to go through the CVs.  These range from the ridiculous to the incredible.  One applicant couldn’t spell “lecturer”, another sent in a CV done in green and orange font (because she was Irish, I presume), and another looked like a cross between a 70s pornstar and a moustachioed villain in an 80s Arnie film.

At the other end of the scale, was a guy 3 years younger than me who had an academic CV as long as your arm, and made me feel like an underachieving middle-aged loser reading about Dougie Howser.  I junked his, not because of personal and professional jealousy (although that definitely contributed), or because he was one of those gits who always uses his middle name to make himself sound more intellectual (I’m really not bitter), but because he had no experience teaching English language (ie. the job) and didn’t know how to write a covering letter.

Double first from Cambridge my arse.

There are many others who are spectacularly overqualified who I’m slightly concerned about inerviewing because they’d probably expect to be working somewhere that wasn’t managed in a manner so laissez-faire as to be almost a radical experiment in unregulated academic development.  So who we end up getting in, God only knows. 

I might just have to go for a bit of old fashioned Nigerian nepotism instead.  The interview process is going to be interesting, not least because when I tell some of them what the salary is going to be, I think half of them will laugh at me.

As long as they don’t find out how much rent is in Abuja, we might just get away with it.  Just.


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